15 Jan 2009, 7:43pm
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d.i.y. fisheye

$11 super-wide-angle digital camera courtesy of instructables.com!

mine is 200 degrees and at least 200 monkeys (you know, in a barrel) worth of fun.

(i need a haircut)

14 Jan 2009, 11:25pm
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some pictures instead of 1000 words

i have been meaning for days and days to write an amazing thoughtful entry on documentation, accumulation, memory, “baggage,” “home,” and goodness knows what other related concepts, but… i haven’t done it yet. evidently. this is my promise to myself to invest some time in writing out all the stuff that’s been on my mind. in the meantime, here’s some pictures i’ve taken recently, many of them taken for or because of my photo-a-day in 2009 project, which relates in some way or other to all those abstract nouns above, as well. yeah.

my neighborhood:

my cat:

judith and a felted spider embryo she made:

the sky:

10 Jan 2009, 9:12am

kari, august 3rd 1992 – january 10th 2008

kari died one year ago today.

mid-december 2007–i was just returned home from backpacking in europe. mom and i went straight from the airport to the vet. my brother brought kari and met us there. my flight was long and one of my bags disappeared between customs and the baggage claim and didn’t show up again until after my mom and i had gotten very impatient and tired and somewhat snappy. mom had hugged me hello and then told me, “your cat hasn’t been doing very well. she has a vet appointment at 7:30.” we were late to the appointment.

she weighed 7 1/3 pounds, down from 9 pounds (a healthy weight for her) in july and 11 pounds a few years before. she was definitely skinny and when i first saw her, at the vet, i was startled by how oily her skin is, and her eyes were weepy. oh my god, i was so glad to see her, though. she meant to much to me.

(1997 or 8)

kari, my karikitty, karikins, light of my life, heart of my heart. my comforter and playmate and companion since 1992 when my parents called me into their bedroom and showed me their christmas present for me, this tiny curly-eared tabby kitten in a round blue bed. i named her after my best friend’s mother, karen. when i went to boarding school for high school she was what was hardest to leave behind. when i went to college i brought her with me. she waited behind the door to greet me when i came home from class. she met my friends. she met my boyfriends. they all loved her and she loved them, too, but when they broke my heart she loved me more. she stayed up late with me while i wrote papers. she curled up behind my knees or below my chin when i slept. we had long meowed conversations while i cooked dinner. sometimes it was me and her against the world, you know? and sometimes it was me and her curled up with a book and a mug of tea. there was this ad campaign for health insurance (or something) in portland that included this one ad i saw a time or two on the side of a bus—a picture of a girl lying on her side, petting a cat. the caption read, “antidepressant.” it made me smile to see—i thought of all the times petting my purring cat had calmed me and centered me, and the joy i felt at her presence in my life, this small creature i had known and cared for and nurtured and loved for so long. i knew she was getting old. i called her my crotchety old lady kitty, set in her ways, affectionately annoyed when i shifted underneath her while she slept in my lap.

in august she’d started pissing and shitting where she shouldn’t. i fretted and my mom told me it was probably anxiety from moving twice in the span a few months (from my apartment near campus, to the house in which i subletted a room for the summer, to the house i moved into for the year). when it didn’t stop, i fretted more and my mom reminded me that another cat of ours, tanya, who died several years ago started pissing everywhere right before she was diagnosed with diabetes . i called the vet. the vet took blood samples and urine samples and couldn’t tell me what was wrong. kari threw up a couple times. the vet took an x-ray and still couldn’t tell me what was wrong. kari was okay for a week or so. a couple days before i left for europe for seven weeks of bumming around with a eurail pass, i drove the two of us north in my car (incidentally the last time i ever drove it) to my parents’ house. my parents and i yelled at each other about what to do if things got worse while i was gone, if there were tough decisions to be made, you know what i mean, et cetera. i petted kari and worried and pulled things out of my backpack and shoved them back in and thought about how i didn’t know what i was doing, how when i’d bought the tickets i’d thought i’d know why i was going by the time i left, but nope, still didn’t have it figured out.

now i was back and the vet told us that kari probably had kidney disease. they said a lot of stuff like “chronic renal failure.” kari was curled up in my lap. they were going to take a blood test, give her a suppository for her constipation, and give her some sub-cutaneous fluid to help her feel better. there had been mention of some treatment that would involve an overnight stay at the hospital, depending on the results of her bloodwork, and my mom misunderstood something and thought that the doctor meant that kari would have to stay there that night. she said something to that effect and i collapsed into sobs. and again when mom had gone to get me some tea and kari was in the back getting blood drawn and fluid injected and all that, and G. called and said “what’s up?” and i told him.

but we took kari home and the vet called not much later with the bloodwork results. kari didn’t have kidney failure, which was great, except that we didn’t know what she did have. most of the possibilities involved the same treatment (prednisone pills for the rest of her life), but we wouldn’t know if it was something manageable for years or something like cancer until she started to die or didn’t.

so i struggled to get three pills daily (the prednisone and a course of antibiotics) down her throat. held her between my knees and got my thumb and fingers behind her teeth, opened her mouth, tried to drop the pills far enough back on her tongue that she couldn’t spit them out again. my mom heated up chicken livers in hopes of enticing her to eat anything at all. i would rejoice when she licked at the broth and then cry minutes later when i found a spat-up pill i thought i’d gotten down her. sometimes my mom would talk about the “hard decisions” i would have to make soon and i would seethe and cry. but the vet told me that she wasn’t suffering, just feeling kind of “under the weather.” we tried sticking kari’s pills in empty medicine capsules to disguise the taste and it got a little easier to get them down her. kari was slow-moving and tiny. she didn’t seem unhappy but sometimes she would lie in this curled-up little crouch and not want to move. other times she’d stretch out across my lap and purr and i’d kiss her forehead and lean across her to tap away at my keyboard just like old times, and at night she cuddled with me under the covers. she still wasn’t eating, though, and the vet recommended appetite stimulants. we added one of those every three days to her prednisone and the antiobiotics.

i took her back down to portland with me when i went, after christmas. i couldn’t not have her with me.

i spent a lot of the next two weeks or so in my room reading library books while kari slept on my lap or crouched over the heating vent. i had a few weeks before my next theatre gig started, and though i wasn’t really getting paid for it, i couldn’t bear to go back to my old day job and i’d just sold my car and i figured it would work out. (it did, mostly.) my relationship with G. began its slow disintegration and i shoved pills down my cat’s throat while she fought me. twice she drew blood and i burst into tears not because my thumb hurt but because (and there is no better way to say it) my heart hurt so bad!

she got better for a day or two. meowed for food when her bowl was empty. talked to me! trotted around the house! and then she got sick again. i had actual dreams about her taking big beautiful shits and in those dreams i was ecstatic. in the waking world i felt terrible. i hated fighting with her every night when i tried to give her her pill. i hated the bites, the little cuts on my thumbs and fingers. i hated that i had to ask G. to hold her paws so she wouldn’t scratch me. i hated that every time she spat out her pill again i burst into tears. i was sick of cleaning cat vomit and cat anal leakage off of my bedding and my clothes and my floor. i did way more laundry than was reasonable. i was sick of vets who didn’t know what was wrong and i was sick of not knowing whether she was going to die the next day or in a year or maybe she’d get better and die in five. i was sick of not knowing how much she hurt, of watching her settle herself slowly, slowly, into her tiny skinny crouch.

on the morning of the 10th of january i took her to the vet again. i can’t remember what the exact impetus for that was anymore. she weighed in at five and a half pounds. the vet told me that if she continued to lose weight at that rate, she had maybe a week, tops. i was too exhausted to be hysterical but my hands were shaking when i brought her in. the vet gave her a rectal exam. i took her home again. the exam made her a mess and she kept shitting dark liquidy stuff while i tried unsuccessfully to clean her up in the bathtub. finally i left her in the bathroom for awhile to recover a little. i can’t remember how long i left her in there. long enough to write in my journal about how i was all out of hysteria, how my hands had shaken, how i felt surprisingly calm, maybe because i was sick of doing laundry and cleaning up cat shit and vomit.

i should have been with her. when i checked on her she was still a bit of a mess, in her tight crouch over the heating vent. i carried her tiny body into my room. she crouched on the floor while i pet her. i sat on my bed and read hedda gabler, a little glad that kari wasn’t trying to get up on the bed with me, because she was still a little dirty. i watched her sink down against the wall near my heating vent, like she was using the wall for support. then she crawled along the edge of my bed, and when she shifted positions it seemed like she was having trouble walking, and i wondered whether i’d accidentally hurt her or pulled her leg or something when i’d tried to clean her in the bathroom. i talked to her, crouched near her, tried to get her to stand, but she fell over again, onto her side, a position not typical of her except when she was lounging in sunspots with catnip and obviously ecstatic. i called my mom and i called the vet.

i don’t remember how i felt at that moment. she looked up at me but didn’t lift her head. her kitty carrier was still in two pieces from the morning when i’d rinsed it out in the tub, and i laid a towel in the bottom piece, lifted her body into it. still she just lay there, and that was the moment i knew that something was very very wrong. i lifted her out again, wrapped her in the towel, and carried her the four blocks to the vet that way, held against my chest, her head under my chin, crying and giving her kisses.

the vet took her temperature, which registered on the thermometer only as “low,” and told me she’d had a stroke. “what do we do now?” i asked, knowing the answer, and she told me, and i pressed my face into the towel and asked for a minute alone with her. i called my mom and cried. i kissed my almost-unresponsive cat and cried. i poked my head out the door and said “i’m ready now.” the vet came back in and told me that since her temperature was so low, she wanted to put a catheter in to make sure everything went the way it was supposed to go. so she took kari away and the front desk woman came and checked me out. i paid for the euthanasia and for a private cremation so i could get her ashes in a little box. the woman also brought me a little packet about dealing with the loss of a pet and a really cheesy book that made me start crying again called for every cat an angel about how there is a forever cat and a forever person. i waited and waited and waited, i don’t know how long, probably not that long. finally i stepped out of the room and said, “i’m waiting… my cat was getting a catheter… i don’t know… where she is…” and a few minutes later the vet brought her back and i held her in my lap for five more minutes.

she was obviously uncomfortable. she cried once or twice, seemed to have trouble getting her head into a comfortable position. then the vet came back and i held kari and the vet said, “we’re going to do this really slowly to make sure there are no problems, her blood pressure is really low and her veins are fragile.” she put the needle in the catheter and started slowly pushing. kari cried and moved her head a few times. i cried. the vet said, “she’s not hurting, she’s just confused.” there was nothing i could do to help her besides stroke her head and tell her over and over that i loved her. the vet had warned me that she would take a breath or a few breaths after she died, and i remembered that from tanya’s death. with kari it was not so much breaths as little cantankerous old lady cat wheezes. but it still broke my heart. the last one was after i’d finally stood up and put her down on the table. i kissed her a million times and buried my wet face in her fur like i had done a million times, for the last time. the vet said “she’s gone” and i said “i know,” but when the vet picked her up to take her away she was almost out the door when i said “wait” and kissed her again.

then i had to walk through the waiting room where at least three people sat with their pets, which was almost as hard.

i feel a little guilty for trying so hard to make her better. shoving these pills she hated down her throat to treat who-knows-what. i think maybe the vets were treating me and not her, trying to make me feel like i was doing something to save her. i hope the end of her life was not painful or awful for her. she was so scared and confused when it happened, and there was nothing i could do about that. i feel a lot guilty for leaving her in the bathroom in the morning. i don’t know when she had her stroke. i don’t know whether i was selfishly attempting to prolong her life when she was dying, and i don’t know if my efforts or the prednisone made her any more comfortable in her last weeks than she might otherwise have been.

i have to remember my uncertainty, and the fact that up to the very last day the vets couldn’t tell me what was wrong or how long she might live.

even our last night together, she still jumped up on the bed in the morning and insisted on being let under the covers by pushing her head against my shoulders until i lifted them up and made a spot for her against my belly, her paws over my arm, my other arm around her.

i still miss her every day.

i wish this post was less about her death and more about her life, but i think (and hope) that these pictures say a lot. they’re mostly from my college years, because with the exception of the photo labeled “1997 or 8″ above, all the older photos i have (some taken with my first 35mm camera!) are packed away in boxes to be unearthed someday when i settle down (or whatever). but she was always the best cat.

i think, though, that her death is part of what is helping me to see all those possibilities in life that i’ve been going on and on about. when she was alive i knew i wanted to have her in my life and near me, so i stayed in more or less one place. it’s just as well, ’cause i know i got through college by truckin’ through it and staying in one place! i didn’t want to do anything else, either. now that kari is gone, i am freer, i suppose. but i wish she were still here.

here’s a link to a post my mom wrote about her a year ago.

8 Jan 2009, 7:13pm
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a couple more mandalas:

this is what i looked like most of the time i was drawing them:

and here’s another gratuitous photo of me, also by the christmas carol production assistant, kelly, and her awesome fisheye camera:

7 Jan 2009, 6:55pm
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library books

i started an actual honest-to-goodness sketchbook today, mostly so i can stop drawing mandalas in my personal journal. anyway, i drew this:

am i witty or what? i ♥ puns.

the stack i drew actually contains only three library books, ’cause i’ve learned my lesson about checking out huge stacks all at once. the other books include a book loaned to me by a friend a year and a half ago that i still haven’t managed to return, a book i got for christmas, several books i bought myself for christmas (um), a book i bought for my mom that i’m hoping to read before i give to her, and a book i’ve been meaning to reread.

today is my parents’ twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. i wanted to make a little congratulatory post for them, but i realized i don’t have any pictures of the two of them together. what! i hope i can remedy that soon. in the meantime, happy anniversary, mom and dad!

6 Jan 2009, 2:54pm
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some gentle people there

i just got back to portland (home sweet rainy green home) after a long weekend in the san francisco bay area visiting some friends and exploring and having a really lovely time. i took a series of “notes” about the trip and i’d like to share some of them here–and photos, of course!

* the woman in the coffeeshop on saturday night with purple scarf, purple sash around her hat, abundant white hair, huge mole above her upper lip, amazing exuberant aura

* climbing on the crazy dr suess metal structure in ohlone park–i’m up at the top touching the sun and elana tells me that during the fight for people’s park, a whole bunch of people gathered in ohlone park to make it a sort of new people’s park and lit a huge bonfire to keep warm and awake. it got so hot that they were able to bend metal piping and make the structure. i dunno if this is a 100% true story (the internet corroborates on some but not all details) but i like it

* thinking about people’s park and student movements and that a certain sense of “entitlement” for which liberal arts students are so often chastised is probably necessary for real change to occur–if we do not believe ourselves entitled to free happy lives (and a free happy community) why would we fight–or work or play or love if you prefer (i do)–for them?

* two (of probably more) parallels between this trip here and the one i took last january: the labyrinth outside of grace cathedral vs the one made of rocks overlooking the bay; the fake fig tree at ben’s lutheran church on sunday morning vs the “forgiveness and wishing tree” at the venue at which my aunt’s dance company performed a year ago

* the idea (from a placard about indonesian rod puppets in the asian art museum) that a theatrical event cannot be interrupted for fear that the real world, which is paralleled in the theatrical world, would be thrown into chaos, and how something to that effect would make a great “turn off your cell phones” pre-show announcement

* the young gay couple talking about love and sex and sitting on the low wall behind the labyrinth outside grace cathedral after dark while becca and i walked it

* how good it feels to walk so much

* how good it feels to sit in warm places with cups full of warm drink

* bought a book about portland at city lights bookstore

* elana ran into a woman she knows on the bart; the woman said she has lived in the city for 14 or 15 years and has finally reached the point where she runs into people she knows everywhere, “it feels like home now (but now i’ve conquered it and will probably get a teaching job elsewhere and move on)”

* ben’s argentinean relative pedro who’s traveling the states and staying with him right now, who asks us how quickly we make friends in america, is surprised that we only touch hands when we meet new people, tries to translate the spanish word–not “friends”–for two people who are tied together by a rope, only there is no rope

* me and becca in the same space, as she pointed out on the bart to berkeley on sunday night, was more of a high school reunion than our actual five-year reunion this past may, to which a grand total of one member of our graduating class (of 26) showed up

* bizarre sidewalk graffiti, including: “the robots do not respond when prodded for conversation,” “praise the lord and pass the lsd”

* thinking about: nonmonogamy, love as a verb/action and what it entails

* ben’s friend ben, improvising lyrics to pedro’s guitar jamming: “if love was the answer, we wouldn’t be asking all these questions”

* not enough sleep

* albany bulb is really really cool, full of tiny pathways and junk and art and mud; elana and ben and pedro and i lost hours there and walked back as the sun was setting

* spraypainted on some concrete there: “the greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love”–no “and be loved in return,” ’cause that is not the greatest thing

* elana says there was a site-specific production of the tempest there a couple years ago, it would be perfect, so weirdly magical and scary and disorienting and beautiful

* missing caltrain by 10 seconds or so (seriously! damn ticket machines), next one not for an hour; my immediate and intense (though short-lived) frustration and anger took me by surprise… taiga drove to pick me up from the millbrae bart station instead

* the chocolatey milk foam rising up in the middle of a circle of whipped cream on top of the hot chocolate that taiga and i drank with long-stemmed spoons in menlo park

* the way our relationships change, friendships become harder and easier

* the sun above the clouds and the almost-empty plane this morning

* waiting for the 75 at the hollywood transit center on my way home from the airport, i watched a man run half a block to help an old woman with an inside-out umbrella turn it right-side-out–then he ran back again

* kepler purring on my chest and that crazy welling-up of things inside me that i feel when i think about “home” in terms of things like kepler purring on my chest

2 Jan 2009, 4:42pm
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one traveling day

from blurry dawn in portland…

to a watercolor sunset in sammamish.